Raise your hand if you have or are currently experiencing bouts or moments of feeling anxious? We can all probably raise our hands. Although unpleasant, anxiety, like stress, can help motivate you to get through something or get something done. However, anxiety can also be intense and debilitating.
Anxiety can wear you down physically, mentally and emotionally. If ignored, anxiety can become an emotional disorder. There are many types of emotional disorders.
Here are a few:
- Panic disorders
- Social anxiety disorders
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Illness anxiety
- Post traumatic stress disorder
There are many different symptoms of anxiety including: increased heart rate, rapid breathing, restlessness, trouble concentrating and trouble sleeping. Not everyone experiences the same anxiety symptoms.
Although researchers aren’t totally clear about what causes anxiety, it is probably a combination of genetic, environmental and brain chemistry factors.
Our current social, political and economic environment is high on the list of what might be contributing to increased feelings of anxiety.
I am seeing it all around me and feeling it myself some days. I regularly interact with clients, friends, and family members who are feeling greater levels of stress and anxiety. The constant state of flux, personal choices and increases of COVID cases are all reasons to feel anxious.
A formal diagnosis of anxiety involves various physical, mental and psychological evaluations. However, if you are feeling anxious, stressed or just not yourself, I encourage you to reach out to your health care provider. Ask for help.
I believe there are also some things you can do to help yourself as well. Often lifestyle changes can be enough to mitigate many anxiety/stress related symptoms. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get enough sleep
- Stay active and exercise
- Get outdoors
- Eat a healthy diet
- Limit or avoid alcohol
- Limit or avoid caffeine
- Quit smoking
- Practice yoga
Yoga is an excellent practice for reducing stress and anxiety. Research from Boston University showed that yoga practice (3x per week for 1 hour) increased GABA neurotransmitters in the brain that create relaxation in the mind.This is similar to the effects of taking Xanax. Yoga helps to regulate our stress response systems like our sympathetic nervous system, adrenals and vagus nerve. When we down regulate, we decrease our physiological arousal (think: decreased heart rate, lower blood pressure, slower respiration). This in turn helps us feel less anxious.
A regular yoga practice can also help increase our resiliency—our ability to navigate stressful or anxious situations. It’s like putting money into your retirement account. A little bit regularly goes a long way. For individuals who experience tension, tightness and pain sensitivity with their anxiety, yoga postures can decrease this sensitivity. Postures aim to strengthen, lengthen and create balance within our muscles which can release muscle tension and stiffness.
Yoga can also help with a busy mind and negative thinking patterns. Using the technique of witnessing or watching our thoughts helps us to become aware of patterns of thinking. Breathing exercises, mantras, mudras and visualization work can all help break the busy mind/negative self-talk even for a short period of time.
Here are some specific practices to help reduce anxiety or stress:
- Yoga releases tension and helps to promote relaxation. It isn’t uncommon to hold tension or tightness in the body during stressful and anxious times. Try THIS VIDEO geared toward releasing tension in the body.
- Breathing provides us a direct connection to our nervous system. As soon as we pause to notice our breath and then focus on slowing down our breath, we start to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system. Try THIS breath practice.
- Yoga is about body awareness. During practice we figure out where we are in space and how we are showing up physically, mentally and emotionally. Try this short YOGA THERAPY TUNE IN to become more aware.
- Yoga not only promotes body awareness, it also promotes self-love and compassion. Try this SHORT MEDITATION on compassion.
- Yoga teaches us to be with discomfort. Not all yoga is easy. Part of the practice is to watch how our whole being responds and reacts when something is challenging or uncomfortable. We are often asked to lean in or dive into the sensation we are feeling; we are asked not to run away. What does it look like? Does it have a color or texture? What does it feel like in the body? Yoga teaches us to inquire and to be curious. Try this class on SOFTENING YOUR RESISTANCE.
STAY TUNED THIS MONTH TO MY INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK AND YOUTUBE CHANNEL FOR MORE WAYS TO WORK WITH ANXIETY